REVIEW: THIS IS SADIE, BY SARA O’LEARY & JULIE MORSTAD

this-is-sadieThis is Sadie
Written by Sara O’Leary
Illustrated by Julie Morstad
Published by Tundra Books, May 2015


This is Sadie is an understated book. It sneaks up on you without warning, and slaps you upside the heart.

Author Sara O’Leary takes a remarkably common premise –kids have wild imaginations, and can do wondrous things with nothing more than an empty box– and weaves something incredible. Her text harkens back to a day of unforced simplicity in children’s literature, when easy ideas were delivered with just a pinch of poetry to make them go down even easier.

Consider:

Sadie likes to make boats of boxes
and castles out of cushions.
But more than anything she likes stories,
because you can make them from nothing at all.

Beautiful, and it reminds me very much of A.A. Milne, to be honest; even more remarkable, it compares favorably to the great master. The beauty of O’Leary’s writing is that she doesn’t strain to narrate in a child’s voice; she is clearly an adult commenting on what a child does, and even though we no longer, as adults, behave as children, we are better equipped to appreciate the beauty in what they do. A child hasn’t the language to relay the wonder in their own behavior, because to them there is no wonder, there just is what there is. There is no shortage of books that celebrate a child’s imagination, but O’Leary’s avoidance of the trap of speaking in a child’s voice is what separates This is Sadie from the abundant pack.

The other thing, of course, that sets this book apart are the remarkable illustrations from O’Leary’s frequent collaborator, Julie Morstad. (I believe this is their fourth time around the block together…)

olea_9781770495326_jkt_all_r1

Morstad’s works pulls influence from picture books of the seventies, which may explain why it resonates so strongly with parents who have kids of an appropriate age for This is Sadie. (The book seems to have taken on something of a feverish following online since its release just a few short weeks ago.) Her illustrations are epic when needed, and perfectly composed. Take the above, for example: A simple line about the fleeting quality of time, but Morstad delivers something dreamlike, and full of awe.

There is a lot of buzz surrounding This is Sadie at the moment, and my B.S. meter was on high alert when I sat down to read it with my daughter, to be frank; I tend to be suspicious of things that build hype so quickly, but this is one of those instances where the work backs up the promises made by the publicity people and bloggers. This is Sadie is a wonderful book.

P.S. Bonus points for doing something interesting with the dust jacket! It’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine that this opportunity is so often wasted in book design, but Tundra and designer Kelly Hill have done something pretty cool here… I don’t know if there are awards for jacket design, but if there are, This is Sadie surely deserves consideration.

–J.H.


Kinderlit.ca purchased This is Sadie. For more info on our review policy, read THIS.

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